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> > How do you guys time your hooksets?

PartsmanJune 17th, 2017, 2:59 pm
bancroft michigan

Posts: 420
For some reason I'm having a heck of time hooking and keeping fish on, smaller fish I'm foul hooking and big fish I'm not hooking well enough to keep them on. This is dryfly fishing upstream, I fishing a new rod, a gloomis nrx 5 wt, which I really love. I don't know maybe I'm to slow or to fast on the hook set, any thoughts?

WbranchJune 18th, 2017, 5:57 am
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2733

I wish I could give you some good advice - but I have been plagued with missing and/or not hooking trout all my life. Just last Tuesday there was a pretty good Brown Drake emergence. I was using an extended body #10 pattern. I went 0 - 3 and every fish came up and whacked that big dun. I know my problem is I invariably strike too quickly.

Two weeks ago there was a good fish rising repeatedly, like every 15 seconds. I was using a #12 March Brown emerger, and while it is hard to believe, I rose that darn fish four times in six casts (must of been one of the dumb ones) I was so mad at myself and I thought "well you had four chances". I said to myself "if he is dumb enough to rise again force yourself not to strike until the mouth closes". I did that and hooked and landed a nice 18" brown.

I think on small fish under 11" they just don't know how to rise well yet and are so fast that you are bound to miss more than you hook when dry fly fishing.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
PartsmanJune 18th, 2017, 4:17 pm
bancroft michigan

Posts: 420
Thanks Matt, I think that's the problem I be a little to intense. I have to work on being more patient.
Jmd123June 19th, 2017, 9:41 am
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2611
"I think on small fish under 11" they just don't know how to rise well yet and are so fast that you are bound to miss more than you hook when dry fly fishing."

I believe that when you "miss" a fish, it may not always or even the majority of the time be your own fault. Fish miss flies!! They get overly enthusiastic and then they don't even get their mouths on the thing! One of my two biggest brookies ever (13") was hooked in the anal fin after a hard, loud strike on a floating grasshopper imitation. I guarantee you that fish completely missed my fly and just happened to catch the hook during the setting as it was diving away empty-mouthed. (It put up one hell of a fight hooked that way too!) At least half of the fish, mostly smaller rainbows but occasionally larger ones including brookies, on the Pine that leap out of the water on the strike miss my fly completely. Last time on the Rifle I had numerous good-sized fish swipe at it without ever touching the fly. It can get maddening, but don't blame yourself. "You missed the fly, dummy!" is something you can start hollering with confidence once you realize this.

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
OldredbarnJune 25th, 2017, 9:05 am
Novi, MI

Posts: 2608
How do you guys time your hooksets?

Answer: Not very well...

As Matt and Jonathon mention above its not always a given. There can be many reasons for missed hook ups, and things can change in certain circumstances, and with different species.

A few years back I did an all night float on the Sturgeon River. I was told to "wait for the weight" which seemed easy enough, but when you hear a nice fish break the surface in the dark its hard to not pull the trigger. I ended up loosing some nice trout because I'd pull the fly away from them before they actually ate it.

Out west one year I fished the Madison and the fish are super quick, and I followed it up on the same trip with a float on the Yellowstone and the Cutts are super slow.

Fish in slow deep holes take their time as well and have what seems like all day to inspect your offering...I get twitchy sometimes in this situation. :)

Sometimes a fish may change its mind when it gets near your fly and there is something there, most often drag, which spooks them.

I have had some guides tell me to make up a short saying and force yourself to repeat it when you see a fish move to your fly...

Sometimes it might be the fly...As Matt mentioned he was using an extended body fly that may get pushed away sometimes by smaller fish...Stiff plastic tailing fibers can angle the hook away from a sipping fish.

Mike...It may be better to miss a few, at least you moved those fish to your fly. You can count them, in a way...:)

I think we all have felt your frustration at one point or another. That trip I posted recently on the Manistee I had a gorgeous trout right along side the boat and he decided not to cooperate and spit the fly back at me before we netted it.

We all should be happy to be standing in a beautiful river giving it a go...Sometimes you win and sometimes you don't. Keep practicing! Work on some mends to get that fly floating naturally and with time you will solve it...At least enough times to up your average.


Sometimes when I hook a bigger fish I give it a serious tug to make sure that hook gets embedded. You don't have to rip their lips off just drive it home a bit...

I am kind of known for the infamous "look-away" cast...I cast to a fish and watch a bird fly by only to hook a trout when I wasn't watching. My fishing friend wouldn't let me count those or the fish that hits when the fly was at the end of a float and dragging. Oops! ;)

"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
PartsmanJune 25th, 2017, 3:48 pm
bancroft michigan

Posts: 420
Thanks Spence, your are so right about standing in a beautiful river, sometimes I get frustrated with lack of natural abilities. But I love the overall experience far more at this time in point in life than ever before. I'm working on the hook set timing, and also the pure enjoyment factor.
TroutnutJune 28th, 2017, 9:56 pm
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2737
My preferred technique is to watch the clear water below the fly carefully so that I can see the fish rising through the clear water to take it, then get excited and yank the fly away moments before the strike. This skillful display of courtesy avoids causing the fish any inconvenience.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
PartsmanJune 29th, 2017, 1:44 pm
bancroft michigan

Posts: 420
Thanks Jason, this is probably the best example of premature catch and release that very closely mimics my style! My fishing thankfully has been good this year dispite the weather, and it lends itself to a lot of studying and wondering. What a wonderful way to spend ones time. I'm going to make a conscious effort to really watch fish more closely and study there reactions to my pitiful presentations. But really other than spending time with my wonderful family, is there anything I would rather do.
MartinlfMarch 11th, 2019, 1:29 pm
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233
A belated thanks, guys. I fished my first hatch of the season Saturday, olives, and found myself rusty. Many of my casts were off, and my hooksets too,when I did manage a good drift. I did land a few, and enjoyed being out immensely, but I often struggle, especially at the beginning of the season, with timing. It's just good to be reminded I'm not alone. But I still think Matt would have caught some of those fish that I left laughing at my efforts.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
Jmd123March 12th, 2019, 7:16 am
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2611
"I fished my first hatch of the season Saturday, olives"

Don't wanna hear about it, Louis!!! Actually I do, I'm just envious...still thawing out here, streams are gonna get blown out by meltwater over the next few days...but steelhead should be coming in, should I choose to pursue them.

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
IasgairMarch 12th, 2019, 10:13 am

Posts: 148
Dry fly fishing upstream is what I do most, and best. It's easy, and I'm sure you have heard the same advice before.

When you see the fish take, whether it's a splash, sip, or what ever, you can either do a two or three count, or say something like "hot dog" or even "fish on". Then set the hook. Because, counting to three or saying a two syllable word gives the fish time to take the fly, and turn back around and face upstream again. So when you set the hook it's going against the pull of the fish forcing the hook to go in a bit deeper and getting better penetration.

I know some people will say something like "God save the Queen", and that even works.

Now if the fish is facing upstream, like they normally are, and the fly doesn't pass the fish so the fish has to turn and chase it like they do in faster water, but the fish is able to see the fly approach, and the fish rises and takes the fly, then a two count is all you need because it's just rising to the fly and after snatching it, it just lowers itself back into position. Setting the hook does not change because the fish is still facing upstream ahead of you.

If the fish was down stream, that would be a different story.
MartinlfMarch 19th, 2019, 1:06 pm
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233
Revisiting this thread in part to needle Jonathon. Found olives hatching again a few days ago, and hooked and landed almost every fish that rose to my fly. I'm not sure, but I think I slowed down the hookset a bit. Anyway, thanks guys, for the discussion and tight lines!
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
PartsmanMarch 21st, 2019, 5:50 pm
bancroft michigan

Posts: 420
Martin, I think my problem is thinking all winter long on how Im going to do everything just right, Im gonna look just right, Ive just the right flys all winter, and Im going nuts sitting around here thinking! Its no wonder Im a high strung mess by the time its nice enough to fish around here! Na, but seriously Im just the kid I was 50 something years ago, just a little older and maybe a little wiser? Anyway I hope spring pops soon and all you great folks are able to get out and enjoy the magic that happens on our beautiful rivers and lakes, just don't rip the fly out of there mouth before eat it!

MartinlfMarch 22nd, 2019, 4:24 am
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233
Thanks, Mike. I had another good day of hooksets recently, and fish have been rising--but the water is too now, most of our rivers and streams are blown out. We need less rain! Tight lines and best of luck to you! --Louis
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell

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